Monday, June 1, 2009

OnlineSpin: Waking Up To The Word On Multicultural Marketing

Two weeks ago, Kendall wrote "The Buyer and Seller As Caricature."

Clyde Boyce wrote in response, "Having been on both the sales side and the buying side, this subject always intrigues me.

When I was selling, some of my management direction was 'just get out there to as many people as you can and sell our story. If you do it right, you will get the business.'

As a buyer/planner, I want to hear a story that is relevant to my client needs, not just how great your magazine or websites demographics are.

As you mentioned, listening is the key to sales, not talking.

Listen to what the needs of buyers and their clients are and tailor the pitch to those needs.

A 45-minute, 30-page generic document that is the same for every sales call is of little value to me.

A 2-3 page document on a specific program built to serve the needs of my client based on our conversation about those needs, is perfect, and always valued, even if it isn't bought!"

Monday, June 1, 2009
Waking Up To The Word On Multicultural Marketing
By Kendall Allen

For an entire period within digital, there has been a serious move to organize around and get smart on multicultural marketing. On the agency side and internally within brand organizations -- we organized for it, designated directors of it -- and certainly started to buy and sell media with multicultural audiences in mind. New businesses emerged: media ad and publisher networks, creative production enterprises, niche agencies. Larger agencies feeling the gap acquired boutique specialists and deemed them multicultural divisions. Thought leadership and programming reflected the focus on understanding diverse markets -- panels, roundtables, workshops and speakers everywhere took on the topic of "multicultural marketing."

It was a line drawn. We always knew who to go to within our agencies to get driving insights, market intelligence, a helping hand with retooling a plan. It always seemed awkwardly compartmentalized.

In fact, through all this, if you were really listening, it seemed like the people who really knew the business of this discipline, early on began dismissing or qualifying the term, the very word "multicultural." The declaration, "All marketing essentially is multicultural" has been thrown down more than once by people who know what time it is. And the really savvy ones had very specific directional advice that the market now seems to be heeding.

As with so many aspects of our business, this one that we have been calling "multicultural" has been notably maturing over recent years, as marketers and media providers seem to get more serious about getting the nuances right when talking about targeting diverse markets.

We have noticed that conversations about this realm are a little bit more so-then-what?; agency or brand-side organizations around it are not totally getting off the ground; and, on the publisher side, there is a real evolution of the terrain. The stats and trends are dawning on us:


  • Previous minorities, such as Hispanic, are increasingly not minorities within the live consuming market.
  • Buying power within a cultural subsegment may constitute an entire sizeable market unto itself.
  • Metro geographic data matters quite a bit, as do previously unidentified linguistic preferences when it comes to messaging and marketing.

    Even as all this becomes obvious and we recognize that "multicultural marketing" does not quite fit the bill, our move away from the construct of "multi-cultural marketing" as a distinct discipline feels resistant and wobbly. So, as I've been focusing on understanding where things are really going, listening to friends, clients and peers, it seems clear to me that there are several market shaping movements that will move us along:

    Multicultural Org Redux

    We've all worked within agency environments or called on clients where some sort of multicultural structure was in place: resident guru, internal specialty agency; task force; evangelist; appointed strategic planning expert. Just as multicultural seems to be going away as a budget line item or a plan within a tier, these kinds of structures are being restructured and dismantled as companies trade up for a more integrated, intelligence-based approach. We've seen this with CPG brands, at agencies and at large media companies with vast buying power. They're breaking it down and doing something different with the new levels of intelligence that have been developed. So what is the intelligence?

    Good Marketing is Multicultural

    In tune with the declaration referenced above -- that "all marketing essentially is multicultural" -- savvy marketers seem to be recognizing that understanding the relative diversity of your market and succeeding, doesn't necessarily mean calling out multicultural as a discrete layer and going at it hard. It does mean knowing your target segments inside and out, beyond ethnicity and into lifestyle, geographic, behavioral and linguistic considerations -- so that you may target and message your marketing as thoughtfully as possible. For example:


  • Ethnicity does not completely imply "in-language" linguistic preference within the marketing equation; people may digest media and marketing in-language or in English.
  • This split will vary by market or product segment and geography.
  • Urban brand loyalty and consuming behavior may be more of a driver than a target's ethnicity.
  • When you roll up all the things suggested by multicultural in the first place, you are looking at a pretty rich canvas.

    So, as all of this is given more thought, there is a greater investment in gathering the right intelligence and behavioral analytics to skillfully run integrated marketing efforts and place culturally relevant media within that effort.

    An Opening of the Opportunity

    As multicultural planning is reorganized, budgets shift, and there is generally greater awareness of the interplay of ethnicity, geography, behavioral, linguistics and so on -- publishers and media companies serving up audience seem to be widening the scope. Rather than delivering narrow slices of specific demographics on the basis of straight ethnicity or even in-language consumerism, there is a "general market" environment emerging. And, that is a much heartier picture. If you could buy general market at greater scale, with better targeting based on a more sophisticated set of cultural considerations across the board, you'd be in a pretty good situation. There's a solid value proposition in that.

    Having felt a certain mumbling around the topic of multicultural within agency planning sessions and certainly while facing the client, I've been intrigued by the focus on getting to a more informed vantage point. That is, a more intelligently armed and active stance on what we've been calling "multicultural." I imagine the next few years will see a lot of action in the market, as currencies around this begin to flow, and we free ourselves of these past constraints and limited thinking. As it goes with maturity, it's never just about organization or method or changing your name; it's about deepened perspective.




  • Kendall Allen is headquartered in New York City. She consults for publishers and agencies on integrating digital -- most recently at MKTG, where she just completed a long-term assignment. Previously she was managing director of Incognito Digital, LLC, an independent digital media agency and creative studio. She also held top posts at iCrossing and Fathom Online.

    Online Spin for Monday, June 1, 2009:

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    1 comment:

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